CHICAGO — Anthony Rizzo called his first two at-bats a battle. The last one was a whole lot better.
The first baseman capped his return to the Cubs lineup with a walk-off home run in the ninth inning that gave Chicago a 1-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.
Rizzo had missed the last 18 games due to a back problem but led off the ninth by driving a 1-0 pitch from Pedro Villarreal (0-1) over the wall in center field.
Rizzo's homer was his 31st of the season and gave Hector Rondon (4-4) the win after he pitched a scoreless inning of relief.
"The game is over (with) one swing of the bat, and it's a good feeling," Rizzo said.
Thanks to the end of the minor-league season, Rizzo didn't get a chance to go on a rehab assignment before returning to work off some rust. It showed when he struck out against Alfredo Simon in his first two at-bats. He was credited with an infield single in the sixth.
In the ninth, Rizzo looked as though he had never left.
"He certainly made the adjustment in his last at-bat," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said.
Chicago starter Travis Wood didn't get run support and couldn't earn his ninth win despite producing one of his best outings. Wood threw six scoreless innings and allowed three hits.
Simon gave up five hits in seven innings. The Reds right-hander, who is 3-0 against the Cubs this season, was a pleasant first-half surprise but had been struggling recently.
He was 2-7 with a 4.96 ERA in the second half before a strong outing on Monday.
"This is my first season with the Reds to be a starter and I want to show them I can be a starter for a real long time here," Simon said. "I try to finish strong."
He might have earned a win if Cubs center fielder Arismendy Alcantara didn't run down Kristopher Negron's drive to right-center with two outs in the eighth when speedy Billy Hamilton was on first.
"The ball that Negron hit, he absolutely crushed that ball out to right-center," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Alcantara made a great catch."
Cubs right fielder Jorge Soler went 1 for 3 after he missed a weekend series in Pittsburgh due to the birth of a child.
Reds: 1B Joey Votto took infield during pregame warmups but didn't take part in batting practice. Votto (left quadriceps) hasn't played for the Reds since July 5 but did take underhand flips in a batting cage on Sunday.
Cubs: Renteria said SS Starlin Castro (sprained left ankle) is improving but "he's not likely to be able to come back" this season. Renteria also said starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (right lat strain) will throw a simulated game this week.
Reds: RHP Johnny Cueto and Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta will face off on Tuesday. Cueto (18-8) will attempt to match Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw for the most wins in baseball this season. Cueto is 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA in his last nine starts against the Cubs. Arrieta (8-5) leads the Cubs with a 2.82 ERA.
The Cubs named Single-A Kane County's Jen-Ho Tseng their minor league pitcher of the year, and Triple-A Iowa's Kris Bryant their player of the year. Chicago general manager Jed Hoyer said "it's way too early to speculate" whether Bryant will make next season's opening day roster.
Recent call-ups SS Jake Elmore, RF Yorman Rodriguez and LF Jason Bourgeois were in the lineup as part of a look-see for some of Cincinnati's younger players. "This is a great opportunity for them to play and for us to get a little more evaluation time before spring training in 2015," Price said.